A family in New York is grieving following the death of 22 year-old James Yoo, a pharmacy student at St. John’s University. New York Post reports that Yoo died when he came into contact with an extremely potent painkiller during his externship at Rockwell Compounding Associates in February. His family has filed a lawsuit against the university and Rockwell in Queens Supreme Court.
The suit says that Yoo was working unsupervised when he started working for Rockwell. An autopsy revealed that he came into contact with fentanyl four into his externship. Fentanyl is 80 times more powerful than morphine; as little as 2 milligrams can be deadly. It is often prescribed to cancer patients for pain and can be absorbed through the skin. According to New York Post, Yoo collapsed at the site. He died six days later.
His family’s lawsuit alleges that Yoo should not have been exposed to such a dangerous drug so early in his externship. His tragic death shows that there was negligent training and supervision, their suit alleges. Attorneys for the family also say that St. John’s did not perform a proper background check on Rockwell. If they had, they might have discovered that the compounding pharmacy is being probed for unsafe practices.
Compounding pharmacies make drugs from scratch, which is useful for patients who need a specially tailored medication; it can be convenient for patients with allergies, for instances. Compounding medications are only legal with a prescription. In 2002, the Board of Regents censured and placed Rockwell and its owner, Steven Consentino, on probation for illegally manufacturing drugs. Allegedly, Rockwell was compounding without prescriptions and contaminating drugs.
Yoo’s family told New York Post that he was on a scholarship and wanted to work with people in poor countries after receiving his doctorate in pharmacy. They described him as bright and big-hearted. He loved cooking and was a fan of Food Network star Alton Brown. In 2012, he traveled to Bolivia as part of a missionary trip.
Yoo’s sister, Elizabeth, told New York Post that his parents are grief-stricken. “I never got to say I love you to him, and that is going to kill me till the day I die…My parents are in complete shock, they did not expect anything like this to happen.”
“My brother did not deserve to die like this,” she said. “I think the school should have looked more carefully at the place.”